The Heart of Our Work

MADD Victim Advocates Kathy Hernandez and Dani Simien

Kathy Hernandez lost her 19-year-old daughter, Casey, nearly 11 years ago in a devastating car crash. Casey got behind the wheel after she had been drinking at a party where adults provided alcohol.

Dani Simien’s life was forever altered in the same crash. He was Casey’s victim, and at the time of the 2007 crash, he was just 18 years old.

Dani, now 30, became paralyzed as a result of the injuries sustained in the 2007 head-on collision, and a few years later, began working with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Kathy also became involved with MADD as a way to honor her daughter’s life.

Kathy and Dani share a unique bond, and for the last several years, they have also shared the same mission: as MADD representatives, they travel the country, often together, sharing their heartbreaking and inspiring stories with groups like ours.

We were fortunate to have them lead a plenary at our Statewide Summit.

For Dani and Kathy, every speaking opportunity is one more step toward healing and helping others.

It is also an opportunity to teach people that underage drinking and impaired driving affect everyone—even the “good kids.”  Casey excelled academically and athletically, and had set her sights on a career on forensic psychology when she got behind the wheel of her Mustang after consuming an unknown amount of alcohol at a party. Dani, meanwhile, had dreams of his own. Ever since the third grade, he had dreamed of being a firefighter. “I wanted to do certain things with my life,” he shared with the audience. “Instead, I’m in a position to talk to people and tell my story.”

Dani said being an advocate through MADD’s Victim panels, in communities, and in schools has been critical to his healing. Speaking to groups allows him to achieve one of his goals, which is to reach more than one person at a time. He said he and Kathy have “the power to bring life to a story” that they hope people will hear. Beyond telling stories, Kathy and Dani have become activists and advocates. Kathy is involved with her local Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse so that she can get involved in more prevention work—such as reducing underage drinking through the passage of social host ordinances in her area.

Kathy said she would do anything to trade places with her daughter but because she can’t, she will continue to focus on prevention through advocacy.

“If I can help save parents from having to live this life, then maybe she didn’t die for nothing.”

We all have a role to play in creating a community in which young people aren’t solely responsible for their relationship to alcohol. Through community-based initiatives like social host ordinances, we can hold adults accountable while reducing youth access to alcohol at house parties and in other social situations. In doing so, we can help keep young Texans safe and healthy – not just as kids, but well into adulthood.

New Tax Law Offers Big Cuts to Alcohol Industry

A month ago, President Trump signed the Tax Cut and Jobs Act into law.

As with many major reforms, there are winners and losers. One of the lesser-known winners are the beer, spirits, and wine producers, who will get a two-year tax cut worth $4.2 billion dollars.

This reduction in the federal alcohol excise tax has been called a “public health disaster.” That’s because the “losers” are our own communities—the parents, youth, and concerned citizens, who will feel the unintended consequences of these cuts.

Those unintended consequences come in the form of increased alcohol consumption, higher rates of alcohol-related accidents and injuries, and various economic costs related to drinking. They also mean greater loss of life. Already, approximately 88,000 preventable deaths each year are linked to alcohol, and that number could go up under this new tax law.

Going in the wrong direction

Increasing excise taxes is not only good for public health; it’s good for our pocketbooks. A dime-a-drink tax increase would generate more than $700 million in Texas alone, while curbing teen drinking, impaired driving, and other consequences of alcohol consumption.

Although “increasing taxes” can be politically unpopular, it turns out that most voters approve the idea of higher taxes on luxury products like alcohol. They also want the revenue to go to public education and public safety—something we at Texans Standing Tall can fully endorse. (Already, one-quarter of excise taxes go to public education funding—which means cuts to excise taxes equal cuts to public education funding.)

Under the new law, tax cuts to the alcohol industry will be in effect for two years, but it’s possible they might be extended unless we get involved.

That’s why it’s important for communities to speak out, in whatever form you can: call your congressman, attend a Town Hall, write an email, and share your concerns with your friends, family, and social media networks.

As a part of our efforts to help shape a healthier future in which underage alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use have no place, Texans Standing Tall remains committed to supporting measures that keep us moving in the right direction. We think it’s time for change – how about you?

 

 

Summit is one month away – you should attend!

In a few short weeks, Texans Standing Tall will be hosting our annual Statewide Summit to create healthier and safer communities.

These two days are a huge opportunity to bring together partners, experts, and youth for in-person collaboration and information sharing. Subjects range from the link between alcohol and breast cancer to a discussion on youth substance abuse and its relationship to the justice system.

We encourage everyone to sign up for this special event because we think it’s a great way to bring people together to create positive community change. And, as much as we love our Summit and want to tell you all about it, we think past attendees are a better way to hear about the Summit experience:

The Summit was well organized and provided a unique learning experience to attendees by allowing their participation in breakout sessions. The guest speaker presentations were interesting and provided useful information for attendees. The youth coalition members did a great job on their involvement as co-host and presenters at the Summit.
-Sipriano Gutierrez, Coalition Coordinator, Hockley County VOICES Coalition 

“When I attend any conference or Summit, I do so with the intention of receiving information about prevention opportunities that will help me mentor the youth in my community.  This particular Summit intrigues me because I am able to mentor others while highlighting the great work of many coalitions across our State.  The networking opportunities are endless.”
-Sylvia Garcia, Law Enforcement Instructor, CCTE, EPISD

If you still aren’t sure whether you should attend, check out our full Summit agenda here. There’s time left to register (and you or someone you know may even be eligible for a scholarship)!

We hope to see you in Austin next month!

‘Tis the Season!

‘Tis the season … to make sure we’re talking about alcohol with our kids

College students are home for the holidays. High schoolers are finding themselves in empty houses while parents are at work or doing last-minute holiday shopping. Adults are feeling celebratory.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most dangerous times of the year.

Data overwhelmingly show that December means greater exposure to alcohol for our youth—and the myriad consequences that come with it, including assault, unplanned sexual activity, alcohol poisoning, and impaired driving. (According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the average number of fatalities involving an alcohol-impaired driver rose 34% during the Christmas and New Year period alone.)

So while we’re gathered ‘round the fire with loved ones, what can we do to keep our kids and communities safer?

Set an example. A new report shows young people are very aware of how much their parents drink, and it affects their own relationship with alcohol. During the holidays, it’s important for our kids to see that we can celebrate without alcohol. If you do drink alcohol, don’t drive. Model riding with a sober driver.

Talk to your kids—and ask the tough questions. What are your kids doing while they’re home from college? Who are they spending time with? Talking to them about alcohol consumption and being clear about your expectations – underage drinking is dangerous, illegal, and unacceptable — is key. (Here are some great tips for how to talk to teens about alcohol. For example, don’t “lecture” and opt for open-ended questions.)

Share the data. Alcohol impairs judgment, and kids who drink are more likely to become involved in car crashes, be more sexually active, do worse in school, experience and/or cause physical violence, and abuse alcohol as adults.  You can share some other important facts about alcohol with your kids when the time is right.

Don’t drink and drive. Stay sober, or find a safe way home. It’s really that easy.

Don’t host or allow your child to attend an underage drinking party. It’s not safe and it’s illegal. It’s that simple.

We know delaying alcohol use as long as possible will decrease the chances our kids will develop problems associated with alcohol later in life. Setting an example, talking to them early, and sharing information can go a long way in making sure alcohol has no place in the lives of our children.

 

Drinking Alcohol Raises Cancer Risk

Alcohol is a “definitive” risk factor for cancer, according to a statement released this month by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). 

According to ASCO, minimizing excessive exposure of alcohol has important implications for cancer prevention. In its statement, ASCO noted that alcohol consumption is causally associated with oropharyngeal (throat) and laryngeal (voicebox) cancer, esophageal cancer, liver cancer, breast cancer, and colon cancer. However, alcohol may also be a risk factor for other cancers, including pancreatic and stomach cancers.

Researchers looked at several studies that found a strong correlation between alcohol and cancer.  They concluded that 3.5% of all cancer-related deaths were due to alcohol consumption.  They further concluded that in 2012, 5.5% of new cancer occurrences and 5.8% of all cancer deaths worldwide were attributable to alcohol consumption.

“The importance of alcohol drinking as a contributing factor to the overall cancer burden is often underappreciated,” the organization said in its statement. “Associations between alcohol drinking and cancer risk have been observed consistently regardless of the specific type of alcoholic beverages.”

Another recent study shows that teens aged 14-17 are less likely to drink if they know about the link between alcohol and cancer. Unfortunately, most aren’t actually aware of the connection. To help create healthier, safter communities, Texans Standing Tall believes its especially important to share this new research so young people gain a better understanding of the consequences of alcohol consumption.

“Fraternities must change.”

The national fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon took the bold initiative this month of announcing a ban on alcohol and other substances at all of its 215 chapters.

“Sigma Phi Epsilon and our peers have unfortunately earned a reputation for being organizations that promote alcohol consumption, misogyny and violence,” CEO Brian Warren said. “For SigEp, there can be no more discussion about maintaining that status quo. Fraternities must change.”

According to the Institute of Alcohol Studies, alcohol use is the leading cause of death, disease, and disability worldwide for people aged 15-49. This is a serious public health issue that deserves our attention.

Over the last few weeks, many universities have taken steps to combat the dangerous, and sometimes deadly, alcohol-related behaviors associated with Greek life.  The most recent—and closest to home—is the suspension of all Greek activity at Texas State University after the death of a 20-year-old pledge to a fraternity.

Texans Standing Tall is encouraged by the movement within the Greek community to work to end the normalization of alcohol for teenagers and young college students. Rather than supporting a narrative that claims alcohol use is “just a part of college life,” it’s important to remind students that college is a time for them to learn, grow, and develop skills for creating a bright and healthy future – that is the college experience we want them to strive for.

Engage for Community Change: New Website

In 2016, Texans Standing Tall received a grant from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to conduct a statewide assessment to help identify potential areas of collaboration between the traffic safety community and substance use prevention coalitions, and to develop an interactive tool to help connect coalitions and traffic safety experts.

This month, after conducting interviews with more than 50 prevention coalition leaders and traffic safety experts, analyzing findings, and collaborating to build an interactive web site, Texans Standing Tall launched Engage for Community Change.

On the website, people looking to connect with coalitions can search for one another by location, community type, or areas of focus. The goal is to help coalitions and communities leverage scarce resources for addressing problems in their communities that stem from underage alcohol and other substance abuse.

Coalitions have been integral to the passage of city social host ordinances that hold people accountable for underage drinking parties that occur in their homes or on their property. Texas leads the nation in the number of drunk driving crashes. Coalitions can have a potentially huge impact on reducing impaired driving, and we know that this tool can serve to assist businesses, agencies, nonprofits, and concerned citizens in making our communities safer.

Through the Engage for Community Change project, Texans Standing Tall hopes to help increase collaboration between coalitions and traffic safety experts in the state of Texas. If you have any questions or want your organization to be included in the project, please contact Kaleigh Becker, Research & Program Specialist, via email at kbecker@texansstandingtall.org or at 512-442-7501.

Alcohol vs. Athletes

Research indicates that student athletes are a population that is at risk for alcohol use—81 percent of college student-athletes used alcohol in the past year, and 62 percent used alcohol in the past month (NCAA, 2014). When the vast majority of student-athletes are using alcohol on a regular basis, we have a problem.

Some factors that contribute to student-athlete alcohol use include stress from the dual roles that they play on campus and the increased scrutiny they receive, overexposure to social settings that promote alcohol use, and challenges related to having less contact with their central support networks. All students, including athletes, also tend to overestimate the alcohol use of their peers and underestimate their own alcohol use, which contributes to a drinking culture on campus.

In addition to the negative consequences of drinking that can affect all students, such as unplanned sexual activity, combination drug use, and binge drinking, college student-athletes have other reasons to avoid using alcohol.

When talking about athletes specifically, there are a number of reasons alcohol use is concerning. In addition to concerns about physical and mental well-being of the students, alcohol hinders an athlete’s performance.

Alcohol Damages the Heart. Intense exercise increases your heart rate. Drinking alcohol even two days before exercising causes additional stress on the heart and can result in unusual heart rhythms (Drink Aware, 2014). 

Alcohol Harms Muscle Growth. Alcohol use cancels out gains from a workout. Chronic alcohol use can damage long-term performance by causing muscle damage, muscle loss, and muscle weakness; even short-term alcohol use can impede muscle growth. This muscle loss and weakness is known as myopathy. Myopathy can affect all muscles – such as those in your arms, legs, and heart – in a way that can harm athletic abilities (University Health Center, 2014).

Exercising With a Hangover Decreases Performance. When exercising, the body must continuously remove lactic acid. After drinking, a person’s liver is working hardest to rid the body of the toxic by-products of alcohol and cannot remove the lactic acid. This causes a feeling of fatigue, which lowers athletic performance (Drink Aware, 2014).

Alcohol Causes Dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it makes the kidneys produce more urine and can cause the athlete’s body to become dehydrated. Staying hydrated helps blood flow so it can carry oxygen and nutrients to the muscles (Drink Aware, 2014). When dehydrated, an athlete may experience low energy, low endurance, cramps, muscle pulls, muscle strains, and muscle loss. Full recovery from dehydration can take up to a week (UC San Diego Intercollegiate Athletics).                                                                                                                                             

Alcohol Hurts Athletic Performance. Alcohol is linked with a loss of balance, reaction time, memory, and accuracy of fine motor skills (Vella & Cameron-Smith, 2010). Drinking alcohol leads to slower running and cycling times, weakens the heart’s ability to pump, impairs temperature regulation, decreases grip strength and jump height, lowers stamina, and reduces strength and power (Kozir & American College of Sports Medicine).

For college student-athletes, avoiding dangerous alcohol use can benefit their performance in and out of the classroom. Through sensible alcohol policies and educational campaigns that challenge students’ misperceptions, colleges can help prevent alcohol use among student-athletes.

For more information, check out our Athletes vs. Alcohol handout here.

 

2017 Statewide Summit Recap

Our 2017 Statewide Summit was a success – thanks largely to you all for joining us on May 1st and 2nd in Austin, Texas, for the event! With help from a range of national and state experts, participants grew their knowledge on a number of prevention issues, such as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), best practices for tobacco prevention and control, addressing binge drinking on college campuses, the relationship between mental health issues and prevention, and more. In case you weren’t able to join us for Summit this year, TST staff members have put together some of the main takeaways from each of the presentations – check it out below!

Don’t forget to mark your calendars for our 2018 Statewide Summit, which will take place February 21-22, 2018, at the Austin Marriott South. We hope to see you there!

From across Texas, advocates came together to #DecideToACT.

 

A Community’s Response to Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
Nora Boesem | Founder, Roots to Wings

After flight delays, flight cancellations, and an impromptu road trip with a fellow stranded passenger, Nora Boesem finally made it to Summit – and we sure are glad she did! Sharing her story as a foster mother to more than 100 children with FASD, Nora inspired attendees to step into the role of advocates and ACT. In addition to learning about the amazing work Nora does as a mother and in her community, her presentation also taught us:

  • FASD is a physical disability with behavioral symptoms; it does not go away and it is not outgrown.
  • Raising and working with individuals who have FASD sometimes means trying differently rather than harder to address some of the behavioral issues encountered.
  • The effects of FASD are far-reaching and can result in genetic changes that are passed from one generation to the next.
  • We can see positive changes in our communities when we work together, but it’s important to remember change takes time – patience and perseverance are often required.

Following the Money: How Industry Influences Policy
Jennifer Cofer, MPH, CHES | Director, EndTobacco Program, MD Anderson Cancer Center
Bob Pezzolesi, MPH | Founding Director, New York Alcohol Policy Alliance

Jennifer Cofer and Bob Pezzolesi gave Summit participants insight into the history of how alcohol and tobacco industries influence government policies to promote their own agendas. The presenters brought years of experience in public health, prevention, and the promotion of science-based, public health policies. Participants left with a greater awareness of the major industry contributors to elected officials and policies as well as how the industry impacts national, state and local prevention policies. These takeaways allowed participants to return to their communities empowered with knowledge of industry financial influence and encouraged to advocate for vital public health policies. Additionally, Jennifer and Bob shared some specific resources advocates can use when trying to follow the money:

  • To learn more about how the tobacco industry influences policy, visit no-smoke.org.
  • To explore how much money the alcohol industry gives to different politicians and political organizations, check out followthemoney.org
  • Don’t forget: You have to speak up/advocate so the tobacco and alcohol industries are not the only ones with influence!

Broadcasting Your ACTions
Dave Shaw | President, Arrow

Thanks to Dave Shaw, President of Arrow Media, Summit attendees got an expert crash course on developing messages to gain supporters and move prevention strategies forward. Ultimately, he encouraged us to ask ourselves who our key audiences are, what they care about, and what we want them to know. Dave’s presentation also reminded participants that crafting a strong message relies on:

    • Considering these factors about your audience:
      • Where are they from?
      • What do they know about you?
      • What keeps them up at night?
      • How much do they know about the topic?
      • Why should they care?
      • What is their number one concern?
    • Knowing your story really well and understanding what you want people to take away from the conversation.
    • Remembering that the message and the messenger matter.
    • A solid process for message development and delivery. This should consider:
    1. The problem, solution, and benefit.
      • What is the size and scope? Who does it impact?
      • What difference can we make?
      • What’s in it for your audience?
    1. The main takeaway, how to connect, and what proof you have.
      • What do you want people to feel/do?
      • How do you get people to listen?
      • How do you make people believe? (Evidence/Data)

Blowing the Whistle on Youth Alcohol Marketing
Youth Leadership Council | Texans Standing Tall

This year, the Youth Leadership Council (YLC) gave two fantastic presentations during Summit, covering topics from alcohol advertisements targeted at youth to effectively engaging youth in prevention activities. During their plenary presentation on alcohol advertising, we learned that:

  • Alcohol companies spend over 2 billion dollar a year on advertisements.
  • 1 out of every 5 alcohol advertisements appears on programing that youth ages 12 to 20 are more likely to watch.
  • References to alcohol are very prominent in music, from country to rap.
  • Alcohol companies use cultural references to entice customers.
  • Youth are especially vulnerable to these types of advertisements because they are new and inexperienced customers.
  • Community prevention advocates can monitor advertisements in their community, especially around schools and in places youth are more likely to see them.

The YLC also presented during an interactive breakout session on day two of the Summit. They discussed important practices organizations can employ for effective youth engagement:

  • Involve youth in recruitment efforts to increase the size of a youth group.
  • Have an application process, letter of agreement, and clear guidelines for communicating roles and expectations to help retain youth members over a longer period of time.
  • Let youth work with adult members to make decisions about which projects they will be involved in and what their roles will be.
  • Allow youth to learn and grow leadership skills.
  • Practice positive group characteristics, such as setting clear responsibilities and expectations, learning how to work together as a team, and establishing clear lines of communication.
  • Use the “Ladder of Participation” to assess progress and examine how youth and adults can work together more effectively.

On a related note, in the Fall, Texans Standing Tall and will be providing a new Community engagement guide (with accompanying trainings) that provides more in-depth information on youth and adults working together to achieve effective partnerships. Please contact Georgia Marks  at gmarks@texansstandingtall.org or 512.442.7501 for further information.

YLC members presenting during Summit

Best Practices Make Perfect
Karla S. Sneegas, MPH | Program Service Branch Chief, Office on Smoking and Health – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

We were excited to welcome Karla Sneegas to talk about the CDC’s recommendations for best practices in tobacco prevention and control. From Ms. Sneegas, we learned:

  • Tobacco use remains a considerable public health problem nationally and in Texas, where it costs almost $9 Billion a year in medical care and loss of productivity. Every year, over 28,000 Texans lose their life prematurely due to smoking.
  • The CDC recommends that Texas spend $10.13 per person per year on tobacco control. However, the state currently spends only $0.47 per person.
  • By following the CDC’s Best Practices for Comprehensive Tobacco Control Programs, states can effectively and comprehensively attack the problem.
  • There are five main components to a comprehensive tobacco control program:
    1. State and community interventions
    2. Mass-reach health communications interventions
    3. Cessation interventions
    4. Surveillance and evaluation
    5. Infrastructure, administration and management
  • Bottom line: we know how to implement better interventions, more efficiently, with a stronger evidence base and a greater reach. Now we just need to reach the recommended funding level for a sustained tobacco control program to most effectively reduce tobacco use.

Promoting Community Standards to Address College Binge Drinking
Toben Nelson, ScD | Assoc. Prof., Epidemiology & Community Health, Univ. of Minnesota School of Public Health

This year, we were so excited to have Dr. Toben Nelson join us at Summit! It was incredibly helpful to have him share strategies for building partnerships between colleges and communities to implement effective prevention strategies. He opened a dialogue between our current campus partners and prevention coalitions in their communities, which was also a huge advantage of having him with us. Dr. Nelson also encouraged those of us in the prevention field to:

  • Reframe how communities and colleges think and talk about environmental strategies.
  • View policies as community standards and enforcement as what makes everyone accountable to those standards.
  • Use existing tools in our collaboration efforts.

Up in Smoke! Tobacco Prevention Funding
Joel Dunnington, MD, FACR | Retired Professor of Diagnostic Radiology at UT, MD Anderson Cancer Center

Dr. Joel Dunnington brought his wealth of knowledge to Summit and provided an overview of the Tobacco Settlement Funding, its intended purpose, and how it’s actually been used. Participants also learned how much could be accomplished if funding levels were closer to the CDC’s recommendations so they can take action and help move Texas closer to the recommended levels. Participants also learned:

  • In Texas, the Tobacco Settlement Funds established the Permanent Fund for Health Tobacco Education and Enforcement
  • In 2011, the 82nd Legislature expanded the use of the three Permanent Funds, including the Permanent Fund for Health Tobacco Education and Enforcement, to pay the principal or interest on a bond for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas. As a result, the Permanent Fund for Health Tobacco Education and Enforcement will be zeroed out at the end of FY2018.

To learn more about the details of the Texas Tobacco Settlement, visit http://www.dshs.texas.gov/tobacco/settlement.shtm

And the Survey Says? Results from TST’s Alcohol Excise Tax Survey          
Matt Gamble | Vice President of Operations, Baselice & Associates

Matt Gamble, Vice President of Operations at Baselice and Associates, gave a presentation sharing the results of the Texans Standing Tall’s recent statewide survey. The survey measured voters’ overall attitudes towards an increase in the alcohol excise tax, what programs they think should receive the estimated $708 million in additional revenue, and what messages respondents found most persuasive. Many were surprised to learn:

  • A majority of Texans across all demographics and regions support the initiative.
  • Despite conventional wisdom saying otherwise, most Texas voters do not shrink at the term “tax” when it comes to raising alcohol excise taxes.
  • Women and regular churchgoers are most supportive of an increase in alcohol excise taxes.
  • Texas voters responded most favorably to economic and public health messages that discussed how:
    • The alcohol excise tax has not been raised in Texas since 1984.
    • Excessive drinking costs the state $19 billion/year and each Texan $695/year.
    • A dime a drink increase in alcohol excise taxes could improve public safety by decreasing impaired driving and motor vehicle crashes/fatalities by 112/year.
    • Increasing the alcohol excise tax benefits public education by providing additional $177 million/year for schools.

Ending the Stigma of Co-Occurring Conditions
Noah Abdenour, Certified Peer Specialist | Director of Peer Support Services, Austin State Hospital

Noah Abdenour presented on the intersection between prevention and mental health, taking a special look at the relationship between prevention and recovery. By sharing his personal story, Noah was able to reinforce the theme of deciding to A.C.T (Accomplishing Change Together).   His journey included examples of how peers played an integral role in helping him transform his life. During his presentation, we also learned that:

  • Co-occurring disorders are when somebody has a mental health condition and substance use issue at the same time. He emphasized how co-occurring disorders can be difficult to diagnose due to the complexity of symptoms.  He also mentioned that one can often times mask the other, and vice versa.
  • Prevention can play a role in behavioral health by helping people maintain self-care and wellness.
  • Current issues with the behavioral health landscape in Texas include lack of access to care, workforce shortage, inadequate training for some behavioral health professionals.

Communities in ACTion (Panel)
Tom Marino | Social Host Workgroup Chair, Circles of San Antonio Coalition
Tracy Talavera | Coalition Coordinator, Circles of San Antonio Coalition
Gilda Bowen | Coordinator, Uniting Neighbors in Drug Abuse Defense Tobacco Prevention & Control Coalition
Rosalie Tristan | Communities Against Substance Abuse Coordinator, Behavioral Health Solutions of South Texas
Ed Swedberg | Deputy Executive Director, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission
Michael Sparks, Moderator | President, Sparks Initiatives

The Communities in ACTion focused on how local communities are acting to create change through ordinances, story-telling, and enforcement efforts. Michael Sparks, national alcohol policy expert, moderated the discussion, which included Circles of San Antonio staff and coalition members, UNIDAD Tobacco Prevention and Control Coalition staff and volunteers, and the TABC Deputy Executive Director. This highly accomplished and motivated panel discussed different factors essential for community change:

  • Relationship building within the community is critical. Without these relationships in place, the strategy, no matter how effective, will inevitably fail.
  • A strategy requires an additional emotional catalyst to draw the community in. Relevant personal stories drive the strategy forward by placing a human face on an emotionally inaccessible, typically data driven issue.
  • Upon implementation, a policy is only effective when thoroughly enforced.
  • Compliance checks are way to address underage drinking in communities.
  • Coalitions can work with TABC and the local police by reporting stores and bars that repeatedly violate the law by selling to minors.

In addition to the plenary sessions highlighted above, Summit attendees also had the opportunity to participate in breakout sessions on both days of the event. During the breakouts, participants were able to work more closely with our expert speakers to further explore the presentation topics and how they can apply the information to their prevention work at home.

If you have any questions or would like additional information about the Texans Standing Tall’s Statewide Summit, please contact us at 512.442.7501 or tst@texansstandingtall.org.

Back Row (L to R): Vickie Adams (COSA), Boyd Baxter (COSA), Michael Sparks (Sparks Initiatives), Tom Marino (COSA), Betsy Jones (COSA). Front Row (L to R): Mellissa Munoz (SACADA), Nicole Holt (TST), Keely Petty (Bethel Prevention Coalition), Tracy Talavera (COSA)
L to R: Ales Flood (SETCADA), Carrie Bronaugh (H2i), Sara Tomlinson (H2i)
L to R: Keely Petty (Bethel Prevention Coalition), Taylor Bee (Baylor Scott & White), Tasha Alexander (Baylor Scott & White)
During Summit, TST was excited to celebrate our 20 years of prevention work.

Decide to A.C.T. (Accomplish Change Together)

Texans Standing Tall will host our 2017 Statewide Summit on May 1-2. This year’s theme, “Decide to A.C.T.”, will reflect the countless ways we all can work together to make our communities healthier and safer. The acronym A.C.T., or Accomplish Change Together, is a reminder for everyone that when we work together the possibilities for community improvement are endless!

The decisions and actions individuals make affects the overall health and safety of your family and your community. There is no better time than the present for us to look around and see what improvements we can make. This year’s summit will be informational, engaging, and a true commitment to our theme of preparing community lifeguards with the knowledge of strengthening community bonds.

Whether you volunteer for a prevention organization, or pass a smoke free or social host ordinance, tag Texans Standing Tall in your community ACTs on social media. We’d love to tell your stories in our newsletter and our blog! So what are you waiting for? Decide to A.C.T. right now!